The best books on our relationship with nature

Kassandra Montag Author Of After the Flood
By Kassandra Montag

Who am I?

As a child, I lived outside as much as possible, finding joy in the company of trees and animals. So naturally, my reading tastes bent in the direction of the natural world; I loved to read about treacherous journeys, wonder-filled meditations, or stories of survival. To this day, I still gravitate toward books that feature the environment as a kind of character, providing it with a voice and a presence. Both on the page and off, my connection with nature remains multi-faceted, heartening, and sustaining.

I wrote...

After the Flood

By Kassandra Montag,

Book cover of After the Flood

What is my book about?

A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Arctic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Why did I love this book?

My first introduction to Oliver’s work came in high school when I read her collection of poetry and essays, Owls and Other Fantasies. She has the descriptive detail one may expect, but it’s the quality of her point of view that is most seducing, always full of wonder and attentiveness. In reading her work one is immediately aware that they’re in the presence of someone deeply in tune with nature, and somewhat disconnected from the hustle, striving, and often hollow rewards found in less natural environs. She was a balm to me back when I was a teenager, and she remains that for me today. Devotions collects poetry from all her different books over the many decades, and as such, it is a perfect introduction to someone new to her work.   

By Mary Oliver,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Devotions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller, chosen as Oprah's "Books That Help Me Through" for Oprah's Book Club

"No matter where one starts reading, Devotions offers much to love, from Oliver's exuberant dog poems to selections from the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Primitive, and Dream Work, one of her exceptional collections. Perhaps more important, the luminous writing provides respite from our crazy world and demonstrates how mindfulness can define and transform a life, moment by moment, poem by poem." -The Washington Post

"It's as if the poet herself has sidled beside the reader and pointed us to the poems she considers most…

Book cover of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

Why did I love this book?

I read Wintering during a winter in my own life—both literal and figurative. I’d felt thwarted in every direction, no growth in sight, and this book was not only a comfort but an essential reminder of how necessary fallow periods are for recovery. May’s book captures how our relationship with nature isn’t between two separate things, because we are a part of nature, our own lives have seasons that mimic the wider world. There is grace to be found in this message, a greater acceptance of limitations, and a recognition of its beauty.

By Katherine May,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wintering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A beautiful, gentle exploration of the dark season of life and the light of spring that eventually follows' RAYNOR WINN

'My favourite book of the last five years' CAITLIN MORAN

Wintering is a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves. Katherine May thoughtfully shows us how to come through these times with the wisdom of knowing that, like the seasons, our winters and summers are the ebb and flow of life.

'Every bit as beautiful…

The Testaments

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of The Testaments

Why did I love this book?

Atwood has written extensively about the relationship between humans and nature in many of her books, in many different forms. But I’ve chosen to highlight The Testaments because of the way Atwood explores the fallout of ideologies that stemmed from an environmental collapse. What Atwood does so brilliantly in her writing is continually revealing how human reaction to climate change can be as harmful as the mass ecological destruction and extinction itself. She serves up a cautionary tale for how our response—and our beliefs—will play a large role in what kind of changes define the future.

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Testaments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



BOOK OF THE YEAR: Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Stylist, Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian, The Times, Observer, Red

Margaret Atwood's dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid's Tale, is a modern classic. Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of…

Book cover of The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

Why did I love this book?

Wendell Berry writes in multiple forms—poetry, essays, novels—and also practices sustainable farming in rural Kentucky. The World Ending Fire is a compilation of essays spanning over fifty years of his work and displays his wide-ranging intellect and care for the natural world. He emphasizes individual responsibility and stewardship of the earth, but his tone never becomes pedantic or preachy. Instead, his passion and conviction are contagious, and I always feel a sense of gratitude and clarity when I read his words. 

By Wendell Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World-Ending Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'He is unlike anybody else writing today ... After Donald Trump's election, we urgently need to rediscover the best of radical America. An essential part of that story is Wendell Berry. Few of us can live, or even aspire to, his kind of life. But nobody can risk ignoring him' Andrew Marr

'Wendell Berry is the most important writer and thinker that you have (probably) never heard of. He is an American sage' James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

Wendell Berry is 'something of an anachronism'. He began his life as the old times and the last of the…

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of The Road

Why did I love this book?

Of all five books, this is the darkest and often not a pleasant or easy read. Nevertheless, I found the depiction of a father and son’s love against the backdrop of a decimated natural landscape to be moving, thought-provoking, and bracing. McCarthy uncovers how man’s moral fiber is tested by ruin, exploring ethics, love, and loss of resources through a devastating journey. It is a book that makes one question how they would survive catastrophe—and how much of their humanity would survive with them.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…

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